City of Montreal declares state of emergency from flooding

A man paddles a canoe in a flooded residential area in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada

(Reuters) – The city of Montreal declared a state of emergency on Sunday afternoon as floodwaters spread from torrential rains that have lashed the city since early on Friday, causing the worst flooding in decades, city officials said.

The state of emergency, which gives firefighters extra resources to battle the flooding, will be in place for 48 hours and the situation will be reviewed afterward. The city of Montreal said in a statement that it would take several days for the situation to get back to normal.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (C) helps fill sandbags after flooding in Terrasse-Vaudreuil, Quebec

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (C) helps fill sandbags after flooding in Terrasse-Vaudreuil, Quebec, Canada May 7, 2017. Adam Scotti/Prime Minister’s Office/Handout via REUTERS

Across the Canadian province of Quebec, 126 municipalities are now considered part of flood zones, and the number of homes hit by flooding is in the thousands, CBC News reported on Sunday.

In Montreal, the province’s most populous city, 221 people have been flooded out of their homes, prompting Mayor Denis Coderre to urge residents to comply with evacuation orders, the officials said.

The Canadian military will deploy about 1,200 troops to help deal with the flooding, CBC reported. Quebec Environment Minister David Heurtel described the rainfall as historic.

A resident sits on a swing in a flooded residential area in Rigaud, Quebec, Canada

A resident sits on a swing in a flooded residential area in Rigaud, Quebec, Canada, May 6, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

(Reporting by Denny Thomas in Toronto; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Tornadoes, storms kill 11 in U.S. South

A business damaged by tornadoes is seen in Canton, Texas

(Reuters) – Tornadoes ripped through an East Texas county on Saturday evening, killing at least four people and injuring dozens, while high winds, falling trees and floods killed five in neighboring states, according to news reports.

Three tornadoes were confirmed by the U.S. National Weather Service in Canton, a city about 60 miles (95 km) east of Dallas in Van Zandt County.

The winds flipped over cars, snapped trees, destroyed houses and left roads strewn with debris and fallen power lines, according to photographs and video published by the Dallas Morning News.

“We have at least four fatalities,” Canton Mayor Lou Ann Everett said at a news conference on Sunday, adding that number could rise. “The damage was extensive in the affected area. It is heartbreaking and upsetting.” Forty-nine people had been treated for injuries, she said.

Earlier a Canton fire department captain said he believed five people had been killed.

The mayor urged people to stay away from a sprawling flea market known as First Monday Trade Days, as crews tried to clean up debris.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott sent a search and rescue team to the area.

The storms caused floods in neighboring states, killing a 72-year-old woman in southwestern Missouri who was washed away in her car, according to local media reports.

In Arkansas, a woman was killed when a tree fell on her mobile home in DeWitt, and a 10-year-old girl was killed after flood waters swept her away in Springdale, ABC News reported. A fire chief responding to the storm was killed on Sunday in Cleburne County, the county sheriff said

At least two other people reportedly died in storm-related incidents, while two children were missing after their mother’s car was swept from a road by floodwaters in Madison County. As many as 100,000 homes and businesses lost power, and Gov. Asa Hutchinson declared a state of emergency on Sunday night.

In Mississippi, a person was killed after a tree fell on their house in Durant, ABC reported. The governors of Missouri and Oklahoma declared states of emergency.

In the St. Louis area, severe thunderstorms were forecast through Sunday. Some people were told to evacuate and 33 rescues were conducted, mostly in the state’s central and southwestern regions, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens said.

(Editing by Chris Michaud)

Flooding forces hundreds from homes in San Jose, California

Rescuers from the San Jose Fire Department pilot boats while evacuating residents of Nordale Avenue after the Coyote Creek flooded parts of San Jose, California, U.S. February 21, 2017. Courtesy of Chris Smead/Csmeadphotography/Handout via REUTERS

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) – Murky, waist-high floodwaters swamped neighborhoods along a rain-swollen creek in the northern California city of San Jose on Tuesday, prompting authorities to issue evacuation orders or advisories for more than 1,000 homes, city officials said.

The state’s third-largest city, a hub of the high-tech Silicon Valley corridor south of San Francisco, has about 1 million residents and declared an emergency as Coyote Creek overflowed its banks from days of heavy showers.

The trash-strewn floodwaters inundated whole city blocks, submerging parked cars and lapping at the walls of apartments and townhouses, as firefighters in inflatable boats ferried stranded residents to dry ground.

About 300 homes were ordered evacuated in low-lying Rock Springs, and city officials urged residents of roughly 200 dwellings in the Williams Street neighborhood downstream to leave their homes, city spokesman David Vossbrink said.

After dark, fire department crews began going door to door advising residents of three creek-side mobile home parks, consisting of about 600 trailers, to move to higher ground, Vossbrink said, adding that the stream was continuing to rise.

At a news conference earlier in the day, Mayor Sam Liccardo acknowledged that municipal officials should have moved more quickly in evacuating the Rock Springs area.

“As I sit here today and I look out at a neighborhood that’s completely inundated with water … there’s no question in my mind there was a failure of some kind,” he said.

City officials had no reports of injuries, deaths or people missing, said Vossbrink, who estimated at least 300 homes were damaged by flooding.

The San Jose Fire Department advised a decontamination cleansing for those immersed in floodwaters to get rid of hazardous pollutants.

The latest series of downpours that swept northern California on Sunday and Monday weakened on Tuesday, the National Weather Service said. Meteorologists said the storms were spawned by an “atmospheric river” bringing moisture from the Pacific Ocean.

Last week a string of storms triggered a crisis near the Lake Oroville Dam about 100 miles (160 km) northeast of San Francisco, where damage to two spillways prompted an evacuation of more than 100,000 people downstream.

California is slowly recovering from five years of drought thanks to several months of unusually wet weather.

At least 3 inches (8 cm) of rain fell in many areas, though some received far more, such as the sparsely populated Big Sur region and outside the city of Santa Rosa, which got more than 8 inches (20 cm), the weather officials said.

The next heavy storm is expected to hit Northern California this weekend, they added.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Additional reporting and Writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by James Dalgleish and Clarence Fernandez)

New North Dakota governor expects controversial pipeline to be built

man holds American flag at Dakota Access Pipeline protest

By Ernest Scheyder

(Reuters) – North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, who took office last month in the height of tensions surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline, said he believed the line would eventually be built and asked opponents to clean their protest camp before spring floodwaters create a potential ecological disaster.

A centrist Republican with no prior political experience, Burgum was elected in a landslide on a platform of streamlining government and improving relations across the state. Burgum built a successful software business before selling it to Microsoft Corp <MSFT.O> in 2001.

Burgum told Reuters that approval of the pipeline appeared to be a foregone conclusion once Donald Trump moved into the White House.

“I expect the world’s going to change dramatically on that day relative to finding resolution on this issue,” Burgum said in an interview. “I would expect that (Energy Transfer Partners <ETP.N>) will get its easement and it will go through.”

A coalition of Native American groups, environmentalists, Hollywood stars and veterans of the U.S. armed forces protested the $3.8 billion oil project at a North Dakota camp, which at one point held more than 5,000, though that number has shrunk in size during the winter.

Opponents contend construction would damage sacred lands and any leaks could pollute the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

Last month, President Barack Obama denied a key permit needed to complete the pipeline, but Trump has said he will review that decision.

Local law enforcement have voiced concerns that any reversal by the federal government could cause the area to swell again with protesters, straining resources.

David Archambault, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, has repeatedly asked protesters to leave the area and let the pipeline fight play out in courts.

Burgum said he agrees with Archambault and asked protesters to help clean up the camp before it threatens the environment itself. More than 300 vehicles, along with dozens of temporary dwellings and other detritus, have been abandoned at the campsite, which sits in a flood plain that is likely to be overrun by spring rain and snowmelt.

State officials are concerned that floodwaters could carry that material away.

“The amount of cleanup that needs to take place is enormous,” Burgum said. “We’ve got a potential ecological disaster if this land floods and all the debris flows downstream into tribal lands.”

(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Andrew Hay)

Storms ease California drought as reservoirs fill up

Vehicles drive on flooded freeway

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) – Several months of wet weather have dramatically eased California’s years-long drought, replenishing reservoirs and parched aquifers and forcing state water officials to switch – at least temporarily – from managing shortages to avoiding floods.

With rain continuing to fall following a deluge that brought 20 inches (50 cm) of precipitation to some areas this week, the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains – crucial for storing water needed in the state’s long, hot summers – is deeper and wetter than normal. Reservoirs were well above normal levels, state and federal drought experts said on Thursday.

“This is the wet winter that makes us cautiously optimistic,” Ted Thomas, a spokesman for the California Department of Water Resources, said on Thursday. “Conditions are improving.”

California has been in the grip of drought for five years, leading farmers to fallow a half-million acres 500,000 acres (200,0000 hectares) of cropland, and forcing some residents to rely on bottled water for drinking.

But the storms that have swept through the state since early autumn have released as much as 42 percent of the state from drought conditions, the U.S. Drought Monitor report said on Thursday, down from less than 3 percent a year ago.

Just 2 percent of the state was experiencing what scientists call “exceptional” drought, the worst category, down from 40 percent two years ago, said the report by the National Drought Mitigation Center.

So much water was coursing through California’s waterways this week that the state’s climatologist, Michael Anderson,

said he was too busy trying to help with flood control operations to talk about the drought on Thursday.

Engineers opened floodgates along the Sacramento River system, drenching low-lying land and sending water coursing into the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in part to protect the state capital, Sacramento, said Dave Rizzardo, an expert with the state Department of Water Resources.

A high tide from the Pacific Ocean was expected to swell the delta, which supplies water for 25 million Californians, and engineers were watching for any levee breaches that would affect delta farming and suburban communities near Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area, Rizzardo said.

Thomas said, however, the state was not ready to declare the drought finished. He cautioned against putting too much faith in the Drought Monitor data, saying it relied on short-term events such as weather that did not fully reflect California’s water needs.

“It’s not over yet,” Thomas said. “We could go from wet right now to dry for the rest of the winter.”

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Snow, rain pummel parts of California, Nevada and Oregon

clearing snow from a driveway

(Reuters) – Heavy rain and snowfall hit parts of California, Nevada and Oregon early on Wednesday, causing roads to be closed, schools to cancel classes and widespread flooding along already swollen waterways.

A National Weather Service blizzard warning remained in effect until late on Wednesday morning for ski resort towns in the greater Lake Tahoe area, including Truckee and South Lake Tahoe, California, and neighboring Nevada enclaves of Stateline and Incline Village.

Snow accumulations of 5 to 10 feet (1.5 to 3 meters) were forecast above elevations of 7,000 feet, with fierce wind gusts reaching 100 miles (160 km) per hour along the ridge of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, the National Weather Service reported.

An avalanche warning was issued for much of the same mountain regions.

“Those venturing outdoors may become lost or disoriented so persons in the warning area are advised to stay indoors,” the weather service said.

Roadways, including Interstate 80 near the border of California and Nevada, were closed on Wednesday morning.

Schools throughout the region canceled Wednesday classes, including the Portland Public Schools district in Oregon, attended by about 50,000 students.

Several flood warnings remained in effect until Wednesday morning for lower elevations in northern and central California and in western Nevada, where creeks and rivers were expected to overrun their banks.

Several communities in the region opened evacuation centers for people who heeded warnings from officials to move to higher ground to avoid flooding.

Heavy downpours sent a wall of mud down onto a house in Fairfax, California, trapping an elderly couple and their two granddaughters, according to local media. Firefighters rescued the couple and children and no one was injured, an ABC affiliate reported.

A series of floodgates on the Sacramento River, just upstream of California’s capital, were opened for the first time in 11 years on Tuesday to divert high water around the city and into a special drainage channel, said Lauren Hersh, a spokeswoman for the state Water Resources Department.

The cascade of rain and snow marked the fourth round of extreme precipitation unleashed during the past month by a weather pattern meteorologists call an “atmospheric river” – a dense plume of moisture flowing from the tropical Pacific into California.

The storms have brought some sorely needed replenishment to many reservoirs left low by five years of drought, while restoring California’s mountain snowpack to 135 percent of its average water-content level for this time of year as of Tuesday, state water officials said.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; editing by Dominic Evans)

Thai floods cause 200-kilometer traffic tailback; death toll up to 25

Bridge damaged by floods in Thailand

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Flash floods in southern Thailand washed out a bridge on the country’s main north-south highway on Tuesday, backing up traffic for 200 km (125 miles) as the death toll from days of unseasonable rain rose to 25, media reported.

More than 360,000 households, or about a million people, have been affected by the floods that have damaged homes and schools and affected rubber and palm oil production, the Department of Disaster Prevention and industry officials said.

Television pictures showed abandoned cars submerged in murky waters in Prachuap Khiri Khan province where a torrent washed out a bride on the main road linking Bangkok to the south, causing the 200 km tailback, media reported.

The railway link to the south, and Malaysia, beyond has been severed for days.

Thailand’s rainy season usually ends in late November but this year heavy rain has fallen well into what should be the dry season.

Southern Thailand is a major rubber-producing area and the wet weather has hit production. Palm oil plantations have also been flooded, industry officials and farmers’ groups said.

In Nakhon Si Thammarat, one of the worst-hit provinces, television footage showed villagers commuting by boat.

“It’s like a big pond,” said resident Pattama Narai.

Nakhon Si Thammarat has had 493 mm of rain in the past seven days, 426 mm more than the average for this time of year, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Flooding regularly occurs in the May-November rainy season.

In 2011, widespread flooding that began in the north and flowed down to Bangkok crippled industry, killed more than 900 people and slowed economic growth to just 0.1 percent that year.

(Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre, Juarawee Kittisilpa and Jutarat Skulpichetrat; Editing by Robert Birsel; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Powerful storms head for U.S. West after thousands flee floods

Partially submerged building in California

(Reuters) – Powerful storms packing heavy rain and snow will lash the U.S. West on Tuesday, a day after thousands of people fled their homes to escape floods, forecasters said.

A band of heavy downpours will drench northern California and heavy snow will fall in the Sierra Nevada mountains into Wednesday, exacerbating the threat of flooding, the National Weather Service said.

The storms are part of weather system called the “Pineapple Express” that has soaked a vast area from Hawaii to the typically drought-prone states of California and Nevada.

Just north of San Francisco, the Russian River in Sonoma County flooded early on Monday, forcing the evacuation of more than 3,000 residents, officials said.

In Nevada, residents of about 400 homes in Reno were ordered to leave as rains swelled the Truckee River, which flows through the city, a county official said.

A woman died after she was struck by a falling tree in the San Francisco area, local officials and media reported.

Over the weekend, an ancient giant sequoia tree with a hollowed-out tunnel was toppled by floods in Calaveras Big Trees State Park just southeast of Sacramento.

California’s Napa Valley vinyards largely escaped undamaged and the rain was expected to replenish water supplies after five years of drought, said Patsy McGaughy, Napa Valley Vintners spokeswoman.

California officially remains in a state of drought as water is still scarce in the south.

But northern California’s Lake Oroville, the principal reservoir for the State Water Project, has 2.25 million acre feet of water, more than double the amount it had a year ago, Michael Anderson, state climatologist for the California Department of Water Resources, said.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee)

Hundreds stranded in North Carolina floods after Hurricane Matthew

An aerial view shows flood waters after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina

By Jonathan Drake

LUMBERTON, N.C. (Reuters) – Hundreds of people were rescued by boat and helicopter as floodwaters inundated North Carolina towns on Monday in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, and officials warned that life-threatening flooding from swollen rivers would continue for days.

Matthew, the most powerful Atlantic storm since 2007, was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone on Sunday.

The hurricane killed around 1,000 people in Haiti and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday some Haitian towns and villages had just about been “wiped off the map.”

In the United States, the number of fatalities rose to at least 23, with nearly half in North Carolina.

North Carolina’s skies were clear on Monday after the state received as much as 18 inches (39 cm) of rain from Matthew over the weekend, but raging rivers and breached levees posed major problems.

“This storm is not over in North Carolina,” Governor Pat McCrory told reporters in Fayetteville. “It’s going to be a long, tough journey.”

Eleven people have died in the state, officials said. With rivers rising, the governor said he expected deaths to increase.

The flooding prompted President Barack Obama to declare a state of emergency in North Carolina on Monday, making federal funding available to affected individuals in 10 counties hit by the storm, the White House said in a statement.

Some 2,000 residents were stuck in their homes and on rooftops in Lumberton, off the Lumber River, after the city flooded suddenly on Monday morning, McCrory said. Air and water rescues would continue throughout the day, he said.

Many of the homes and businesses in Lumberton were flooded with several feet of water on Monday afternoon and residents were seen paddling about the town in small skiffs.

Major flooding was expected this week in central and eastern towns along the Lumber, Cape Fear, Neuse and Tar rivers. The National Weather Service said the Neuse River would crest on Friday night and forecast “disastrous flooding.”

Emergency officials in North Carolina’s Lenoir County issued a mandatory evacuation order on Monday afternoon for residents and businesses along the Neuse River.

“IT BREAKS YOUR HEART”

Many coastal and inland communities remained under water from storm surge or overrun rivers and creeks.

McCrory told reporters that he had met an elderly woman at a shelter on Monday who lost everything to floods.

“She’s sitting in a school cafeteria at this point in time crying and wondering what her life is going to be all about,” he said. “It breaks your heart.”

In neighboring South Carolina, Governor Nikki Haley warned that waterways were quickly reaching capacity around the state.

“What might not be flooded today could be flooded tomorrow,” Haley told a news conference.

She said there had been at least three storm-related deaths, including one in which a person in a vehicle was swept away by floodwaters.

Warnings were also issued over downed power lines. An 89-year-old man was killed in Florida on Monday after touching a downed line, officials said.

About 715,000 homes and businesses were without power on Monday night in Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina and Virginia.

A federal judge on Monday granted a request from Florida’s Democratic Party to extend the state’s voter registration deadline by one more day, through Wednesday, because of the hurricane. Republican Governor Rick Scott had rejected demands from Democrats to extend the deadline.

A hurricane watch was issued for Bermuda, which could be threatened by another tropical system, Nicole, that is expected to reach the Atlantic island later this week, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

(Additional reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa, Florida and Gene Cherry in Raleigh, N.C.; Writing by Timothy Mclaughlin and Laila Kearney; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Tom Brown and Paul Tait)

Thousands still in shelters after record Louisiana floods

Louisiana Floods

By Sam Karlin

BATON ROUGE, La. (Reuters) – More than 3,000 Louisiana residents were still in emergency shelters as record flood waters receded on Monday, while government officials weighed options for temporary housing after the state’s worst disaster since Hurricane Katrina.

About 60,600 homes have been reported damaged or destroyed in flooding that swept through 20 parishes, or counties, in the southern part of the state after torrential rains earlier this month.

With swollen rivers, streams and bayous returning to normal, many people were going back to their homes and businesses, and state offices had reopened.

But the governor’s office said 3,075 residents were still living in shelters as of Monday, a day before President Barack Obama is due to tour the stricken area.

The extent of the damage prompted the Federal Emergency Management Agency to extend a grace period to renew lapsed flood insurance policies for parts of Louisiana for the first time since Katrina in 2005.

“We’ve seen major destruction to communities across the state,” Roy Wright, deputy associate administrator for FEMA’s Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration, said in a statement about the extension.

Residents have already filed more than 25,600 flood insurance claims. But only 42 percent of Louisiana homes in high-risk areas had flood insurance, while only 12.5 percent of homeowners in low and moderate-risk zones were covered, according to FEMA estimates.

The agency has also already received some 110,500 applications for individual assistance, and $74 million in individual grants has been paid out.

“When it comes to a home that is lost, FEMA money is not designed to replace insurance or make people whole again,” said FEMA spokesman Rafael Lemaitre. “It’s a life vest, not a life boat.”

So far, the number of people affected by the floods pales in comparison with the nearly 74,000 families forced out of homes after Katrina and the 11,000 displaced after Hurricane Rita, a storm that came a few weeks later in 2005.

In 2005, FEMA faced widespread criticism for what many considered a slow, inept response. But the agency appears to have benefited from experience.

“From the vantage point of a citizen, what we see is a much more coordinated state, federal and local partnership on the response,” said Adam Knapp, head of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and a former deputy director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority after Katrina.

“That is a perhaps a hard-fought, hard-won experience for us since Katrina – when we learned how important it is to be coordinated in the immediate response.”

FEMA has formed a task force to identify temporary housing options for the thousands displaced by the floods, Lemaitre said. That may include manufactured housing units that meet or exceed government certifications, he said.

FEMA paid $6.6 billion to about 1.07 million households and individuals in the Gulf states after Katrina, $5.3 billion of which went to Louisiana alone.

In response to this month’s flooding, FEMA has issued more than $15 million in advanced flood insurance payments to Louisianans who sustained damages, the agency said in a statement on Monday.

(Additional reporting and writing by Chris Prentice in New York; editing by Frank McGurty and Tom Brown)